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Your favorite cocktail just got more expensive

Several forces are conspiring to raise your bar tab.

By Money Staff Mar 27, 2014 12:07PM

This post comes from Catey Hill at partner site MarketWatch.

MarketWatch on MSN MoneyYou're not seeing double: Your bar tab really is that big.

Man with tropical drink © CorbisMargaritas, screwdrivers and Bloody Mary's are among the cocktails that could become more expensive in coming months. And drinkers can't blame the actual alcohol for that -- thanks to a convergence of factors ranging from weather to bacteria, the price of many of the ingredients in cocktail mixers has jumped.

In general, the prices for fresh fruits — including many used as cocktail mixers — climbed 2.5 percent from January to February this year, compared with just 0.4 percent for food overall. And Vernon Crowder, the senior vice president and senior analyst at Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory, says that fruit prices could continue to climb through the summer.

Take limes and lemons, used in everything from a Long Island iced tea to margaritas (not to mention sour mix). The retail price of limes has jumped 152 percent to $0.53 apiece since last year, according to USDA data. Lemons too have seen a price jump with the cost climbing nearly 41 percent to $0.62 apiece.

For those who like a mimosa or Bloody Mary made with fresh-squeezed juice with brunch, the news isn’t much better. The per pound price for oranges has climbed 27 percent to $1.19 and the price per pound for tomatoes more than 5 percent to $1.30. (The good news: that celery garnish is actually cheaper now than last year.) And wholesale prices on fruits and veggies are also up, so you won’t just feel the sticker shock at the grocery store. "Some bars could raise prices on cocktails with a lot of juice," says IBISWorld analyst Antal Neville.

While those price increases might sound like small numbers, they add up. Let's say you have three margaritas a week, each of which requires the juice of two limes. Assuming lime prices stay as they are now, you’ll spend about $100 more this year on those margaritas than last year. If you like fresh squeezed OJ in your mimosa, that three-a-week habit will cost you about $60 more this year than last, assuming you use the juice of two oranges in each drink.

So what's contributing to a possible increase in your bar tab? Almost all of the limes eaten in this country come from Mexico — and a number of factors there are impacting the price, including snaps of cold weather and violence in one of the major lime-growing regions that's impacting the harvesting and transporting of the limes, says Neville. There was also a bacterium impacting some of the lime trees.

The deep drought in California — the state's Central Valley region producers roughly one third of the produce we eat in this country — plays a role in the rising prices of lemons, oranges and tomatoes, says Neville. "The drought has decreased production significantly," he says.

Indeed, California produces roughly one-third of the fresh tomatoes grown in the U.S., as well as many of the processed tomatoes, says Milt McGiffen, a professor in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences at the University of California-Riverside. The state also produces more lemons than any other and trails only Florida in orange production. Plus, lemon prices are being impacted by lower-than-expected numbers of imported lemons and oranges were hit by freezing weather in California, which damaged the crops, says Crowder.

Consumers facing a higher bar tab may want to switch mixers. Soda, for example, tends to often be on special at grocery stores. And the prices for strawberries and grapefruits have remained relatively steady, so a strawberry daiquiri or greyhound may be a worthy switch.

More from MarketWatch

Mar 27, 2014 2:13PM
The price of everything rises faster than our wages.
Mar 27, 2014 1:42PM
Naw! Not a gonna pay-a for more expensive cocktail! I fix-a my own for a quarter of-a expense! Plus, no have to leave-a tip!
Mar 27, 2014 2:33PM

Just have a few at home before you go out. Then nurse that one at the bar = money in the bank !

Mar 27, 2014 2:49PM
Just buy a bottle of your favorite alcohol and what ever mixers you need. Now your mixed drinks made at home will cost about 15% of what they do at the bar with the plus side of having more alcohol in them.
Mar 27, 2014 7:56PM
Has anything really come down in price.  Everything has an excuse to soften the blow but the reality of it is prices keep sky rocketing & wages remain stagnant at best.  Many people have lost their jobs or haven't gotten a raise in years, meanwhile, gas that was about $1.80 a gallon six years ago is now $3.40, meats have doubled, milk, property taxes, insurance, all have gone up considerably. The outlook looks gloomy if we continue on this pace.
Mar 27, 2014 2:20PM
I cut out the middle man and make my own, especially Harvey Wallbangers!
Mar 27, 2014 3:53PM
I've been asking why alcoholic beverages are so much higher here than in Italy (my wife's family's home). I bring back nearly a dozen bottles when we go. Whiskey and liquore (esp. the best Amaretto) costs 1/3 what it does here, brand for brand. Fine wine about 1/2. I'm sure Italy taxes it to death, so how can this be?
Its just like Delta's tickets Atlanta - Rome - Atlanta cost just a bit more than double its tickets Rome - Atlanta - Rome; same flights, just in the reverse order. Somehow, we're getting shafted.
Mar 27, 2014 4:00PM
Good time for flasks to make a come back.  But even bar sodas and juices are expensive.  If I just ask for a glass of ice, do you think they will be suspicious?  LOL!
Mar 27, 2014 5:00PM
There seems to be a reason for everything going up, accept for the Economy!
Mar 27, 2014 2:55PM
$12 to $15 a drink in some San Diego bars and clubs.  Outrageous.  I recall drinks for a buck in La Jolla/Del Mar in the late 60's when I was a student at San Diego State Univ. and tuition then.  Quarter beers...dollar pitchers.  Yeah, I know what wages were then and the cost of living vs. now. 
Mar 27, 2014 4:37PM
Since the start of the Federal Reserve, the Federal Reserve Note has lost at least 93% of its value.  There isn't much left.  Once that's gone, we'll be like the Weimar Republic and Argentina (needed a wheelbarrow full of Argentinian dollars to buy a loaf of bread). 
Mar 27, 2014 4:20PM
The guy in the picture looks like he is feeling no pain.
Mar 27, 2014 10:55PM
The price of consumer goods isn't rising - the value of your Obama Dollars is dropping like brick turds.
Mar 27, 2014 2:50PM
Old, dear and now departed long-time family friends never would admit that they basically liked drinking  straight gin, so when out with friends they always ordered very very dry martinis. And then the wife realized a martini was mixed drink and it cost more than gin on the rocks.  But appearances remained important, so for years she carried a little eye dropper type bottle containing dry vermouth so they  maintain the fiction they did not drink straight gin. I believe the little bottle still had vermouth in it when she died.  And another still living very elderly Irish woman friend lived in CA for years.  She became very fond of the Ramos Fizz. The problem was she moved to Washington DC.  Do you think anybody there had the orangewater elixir/extract needed to make a proper Fizz?  So she carried her own little vial for years.  I would imagine by now a Ramos Fizz in Beverly Hills has to be pushing $20.
Mar 27, 2014 4:17PM
A Bloody Mary mixer NEVER I make my own too Cajan style LOVE IT. I also grow my own lemons HAHAHA. I produce about 50 to 60 of the little darlings per year. Lime juice (I know not fresh) is really cheap at the dollar store so is JUICE cranberry is $2.00 for the same size of OceanSpray which sell's theirs for $4 something. We put in a bar in our back yard I'm stocked up on the basic liquors so I am ready for those SUMMER PARTIES now if I could only get the weather to coroperate.
Mar 28, 2014 11:57AM

Glaring error in FIRST sentence!   "Bloody Mary's" is POSSESSIVE, not plural!  


Does MSN have ANY competent proofreaders or editors???

Mar 28, 2014 11:13AM
At restaurants ask for water with lemon with food, free and better for you.   Drinks are where restaurants make money instead of the meals.  $2 for a tea when it costs 2 cents.
Mar 28, 2014 9:41AM
The wife and I stopped ordering cocktails at our eating establishments. The cost is just ridiculous we wait until we get home and make our own at a fraction of the price.
Mar 28, 2014 11:12AM
Why would you pay such high prices at bars, restaurants for a cocktail?   Make your own or better yet, drink something else.   Maybe on your birthday, but daily?  If daily you are a drunk.
Mar 28, 2014 6:22AM

So of I have a Vodka on the rocks will I pay less  or the same  for a mixed fruit drink ?

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